The launch of the new e-commerce platform is just the latest move (for the moment) along a path of digitalization organized by Natuzzi Italia, to harmoniously interface physical and virtual dimensions in a wide-ranging omnichannel strategy. The company’s plan of growth proceeds, looking forward to the a future of innovation and combination of technologies.
Also in this particular moment in history, in the midst of a health crisis in progress. “The Italian factories are operative, in total compliance with the extraordinary measures to fight the spread of the virus – the company informs us. – At the headquarters in Puglia all the office continue to process orders and respond to the needs of clients in smart working mode, while in the rest of the world all the offices are active in normal working conditions. Our factories around the world also continue with their production activities.”
The new platform thus takes on even greater importance, shifting the shopping experience of the physical Natuzzi Italia stores into a virtual realm, in a case of perfect integration. This balance between real and digital, or in short this omnichannel approach – according to Pasquale Junior Natuzzi, Global Chief Creative & Marketing Officer – has to become the basis for the strategies of all consumer-oriented brands. First of all, Natuzzi Italia.
What are the measures taken for the combination of physical and digital dimensions in the project of Natuzzi Italia?
Along our path we have attempted to create a digital platform that would fully express the image of Natuzzi; then we have inserted, in our platforms of communication and digital information (like the website and the apps), the function of 3D high-definition configuration. Thanks to the fact that every product, finish or covering is the result of a long process of scanning of the material or the product itself, approved by our designers in the in-house styling division, the configurator offers a vivid experience of customization for clients, on our website but also inside the stores, with the help of the sales staff.
Starting with this tool, we have invested in a project that is very futuristic in its structure, but simple and enjoyable to use: the project of the Mixed Reality Station developed in partnership with Microsoft is a natural extension of all the investments made on the configurator, which thus becomes part of an environment of mixed reality thanks to the Hololens 2 by Microsoft.
For a brand with a strong retail presence, isn’t there some conflict between the two channels?
You have to be smart, to understand what game to play and on what playing field, but in general the secret lies in an omnichannel approach, a holistic approach (in communication, marketing, commercial strategies). The brand has to always have one face, one voice, one message to the customer, and it has to do this in a coordinated, consistent way, across the various available platforms. For us too, with our large retail structure, it would be unthinkable to wager on one distribution strategy or another, to have a double standard.
What do you foresee as the potential of e-commerce in the furniture industry?
Demand is there on the digital channel, and in our sector the numbers are rapidly growing, though often these are sales connected with basic objects or products, without customization. We have attempted to offer greater support and traffic to the physical stores through the website, which in any case sends you to the closest store or the closest place for finding the product, permitting online purchasing and pick-up at the showroom. It is a way to harmonize the flow between physical and virtual, though in the initial analysis we have seen that many consumers are willing to make their purchases entirely online.
The furniture industry can absorb the potentialities of this parallel channel, so in a few years the supply/demand process will move in a more dynamic way, with respect to the past and present. It is a path of construction that will evolve in relation to the purchasing behavior of consumers.
And what developments do you envision for the retail outlet?
This year, we intend to consolidate a project of retail excellence: to bring together brand strategies, merchandising, marketing and retail operations to allow our stores in the world to guarantee a performance level in line with the very finest.
Last year you launched the Natuzzi Augmented Store in New York and London, which also won the Retail Week Award 2020 in the category of Hermes Customer Experience – GAME CHANGER. What has been the reaction to date?
We have had the honor of being selected as a case study by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, for a project I am personally carrying out together with the Microsoft team in London and Mountain View.
New York and London were the starting points for the launch of this platform of virtual and augmented reality, which has led to great returns in terms of order conversion, from prospects to final consumers, also thanks to the more experiential interaction it offers: a more dynamic service that makes the purchase experience unique and different. The KPI for the two cities confirm this: we are talking about a sales boost of 30% or even 50% in certain months. This has led us to develop a roll-out plan that will happen in all our stores in the UK and the USA, and later in Spain.
We will continue with the owned stores, but the potential of this tool is that it can make available the entire Natuzzi Italia range, even inside small galleries or shop-in-shop facilities. This makes me imagine forms of distribution that do not yet exist, which perhaps one day we will be the first to present, where there are no physical products at all.